As you may know, unless you’re reading my blog for the very first time, my name is James and my day job is as musician, leading the music at Chelmsford Cathedral. I’ve been a fan of the Equestrian discipline of Eventing for just over 10 years and from my first experience of watching the Cross Country (XC) phase I’ve wanted to do it.
I’m not by nature a particularly brave person, so it came as something of a surprise to find myself drawn to something that requires a good deal of nerve, and even talking to other riders in lessons lots didn’t particularly like the idea of jumping showjumps, let alone fences. My jumping experiences have been mixed: I’m not a natural, I think it’s fair to say, but I’ve worked hard to improve and it’s quite a thrill to get off the ground; there’s a very satisfying feeling to work your way around a course of jumps. It’s quite a long way from playing the organ or conducting a choir, and there aren’t many transferable skills, but I love the contrast and it’s give me a unique angle (hence the name of the blog).
In order to prepare to compete at a One Day Event I need to get over some XC fences, and thanks to an inspired birthday present from my parents (a year before the target of my #80by40 challenge to compete at British Eventing’s 80cm level by the time I reach 40) I headed to Poplar Park in Suffolk for training. It’s a fantastic venue with conditions that allow for riding through most of the year, and we had bright blue big Suffolk skies for the day of the lesson. After a warmup showjump instructor JonJo and headed out to the XC course. Time to get brave!
A no-nonsense style from JonJo got us up over our first fences and the school horse they’d given me showed the way to go! We were up steps next, and then down (probably the kind of fence I’d had most questions about when watching riders go XC) and over a log into the woods. It’s fair to say that it’s a thrilling to ride as it is to watch and despite the drastic difference in scale (!) I thought of Pippa Funnell’s advice after her winning Burghley XC round: “Be brave, be positive, and be very attacking.” It started to fall into place, and although that was very much the start, it was confirmation for me that I love it as much as I hoped I would, and (who knows where I got them from) I do have some brave pants in the drawer after all!